Working parents calling it quits

A new FlexJobs survey finds 40% of working parents had to quit or reduce their hours since the start of the pandemic, highlighting a critical need for flexible work accommodations for working parents.
Feature Working Parents Quitting Panel

Working parents are feeling the pressure and strain of the 2020–21 school year, as many schools around the country have decided to open only remotely or use a hybrid approach. This pressure comes on the heels of a stressful spring, as many working parents found themselves trying to balance their career and child care responsibilities in unprecedented ways.

To gain a better understanding of how deeply COVID-19 has impacted working parents, remote job search website FlexJobs surveyed more than 2,500 parents with children 18 and younger living at home and found that since the pandemic started almost half of working parents (40%) have had to change their employment situation by either voluntarily reducing their hours (25%) or quitting entirely (15%). An additional 5% said their partner had to either reduce their hours or quit, while 9% considered quitting their job during the pandemic. Of those that quit entirely, 38% do not plan to rejoin the workforce.

The survey also highlighted differences between working mothers and working fathers that show moms still bear the brunt of child care responsibilities:

  • Sixty-three percent of working mothers said they were primarily responsible for child care during the shutdown this spring, while 43% of working fathers reported the same thing; and
  • Seventeen percent of working mothers quit their jobs during the pandemic — nearly one in five — versus just 10% of working fathers who reported the same thing.
  • Eighty percent of working mothers said they primarily handled the online learning responsibilities of their children but only 31% of working fathers reported the same thing;
  • Forty-three percent of working mothers said their employment situation remained unchanged during the pandemic, while 51% of working fathers reported the same thing;
  • Thirty-seven percent of working mothers have left their job because it did not have work flexibility at some point in their career. Only 26% of working fathers can say the same; and
  • Regardless of the challenges, about half of working mothers (49%) and half of working fathers (50%) still say they have been more productive working from home during the pandemic than when they were in the traditional office.

Working parents at all levels of the workforce are sharing in the struggle of choosing between career and family. The parents who responded to FlexJobs’ survey were highly educated, with 72% having at least a bachelor’s degree and 30% having a graduate degree.

A majority of working parents said having a flexible schedule would have the greatest impact on their ability to juggle career, distance learning, and child care responsibilities. The survey also found that working mothers and working fathers report different experiences around changes to their employment, child care, and distance learning responsibilities as a result of the pandemic.

“For moms, dads, employers, and the workforce at large, these findings offer insights into what it’s really like to juggle parenting and a career, and how flexible work options — or the lack thereof — can impact decision-making,” says Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs.

In order to help working parents not only stay in the workforce but also be productive employees during this challenging time, employers should absolutely consider offering flexible schedules,” Sutton continues. “When executed thoughtfully, giving employees more control over when they’re able to work during the day can help create the critical space they need to meet all their competing demands. The pandemic has really forced companies to see the struggles that working parents and other caregivers routinely face and hopefully has shed light on just how impactful granting remote and flexible work accommodations can be.”

According to FlexJobs’ research, when asked what types of work flexibility would have the greatest impact on their ability to juggle career, distance learning, and child care responsibilities, working parents ranked the following:

  • Flexible schedule — having some control over when they work (58%);
  • Working from home full-time (48%);
  • Allowing children to be at home during the workday — having a work environment that understands their child care demands (31%);
  • Working from home part-time (30%);
  • Freelancing (24%); and
  • Alternative schedule, such as 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. or a four-day workweek (20%).

Furthermore, if distance learning continues for the entire 2020–21 school year:

  • Fifty percent of working parents plan to continue to work from home and will also be fully responsible for child care and e-learning;
  • Twenty-two percent will have to request to work from home full-time so they can be responsible for child care;
  • Seven percent say that they or their partner will plan to quit their jobs if distance learning continues; and
  • More than one in five (21%) will have to pay for additional child care.

Finally, working parents ranked the following as the most important factors they consider when evaluating a job prospect:

  1. Work-life balance (79%);
  2. Salary (77%);
  3. Flexible work options (73%);
  4. Meaningful work (54%);
  5. Work schedule (49%);
  6. Location (40%);
  7. Health insurance (39%);
  8. Company culture (34%);
  9. Vacation time (34%);
  10. Company reputation (33%);
  11. Career progression (33%);
  12. Skills training and education options (31%); and
  13. 401(k)/retirement benefits (28%).

To help parents manage working from home and their children’s virtual learning responsibilities — so you don’t have to quit your job — FlexJobs offers the following tips:

Communicate expectations with your team and let them know about your reality. Some flexible work conversation starters:

  • To talk with your boss or co-workers:“I want to share my current reality to give everyone a solid understanding and try to stay ahead of any potential problems.”
  • To ask for more flexibility:“I’d like to get a good sense of what my flexible work options are right now. The more I’m able to shift my schedule, the better I’ll be able to meet work priorities and stay productive during this time.”
  • For the beginning of meetings: “As is the case with a lot of you, I’m working from home and caring for my ___ and ___ year old kids. I wanted to give you a heads up that I may get interrupted during our call but I’ll let you know, mute myself, deal with the situation, and jump back in.”

Let your boss know your new responsibilities with remote learning and ask for flexibility in your schedule. Prioritize the “live” classroom sessions as must-attend and try to be close by when your kids are on them.

Split-shift the workday. If you have a partner who can work at home, split child care and work shifts with each other. That way, each day you each will have a designated time for work and a designated time for being with your kids.

Develop a focused learning space for your kid(s). For example, use a tri-fold display board to section off their workspace.

Secure the fastest internet speed. This is important when there are multiple users at home simultaneously online. Use a plugin connection to the internet when possible.

Recreate what your child’s classroom would have had with schedules, visual cues, binders, bins, etc.

Consider printing worksheets when possible. Most kids like the physical action of doing the work.

Give yourself a break. This situation is extremely difficult and stressful, and no one will do it perfectly. Outside of this unusual situation, most remote workers normally have regular child care. Working from home with kids is not what remote work is normally like, so make sure to treat each day as a new one and find some joy in sharing these moments with your kids that you usually don’t get to be a part of.

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